In this book, author, adjunct professor of sociology, and former therapist Shanita Hubbard disrupts the ride-or-die complex and argues that this way of life has left Black women exhausted, overworked, overlooked, and feeling depleted.

She suggests that Black women are susceptible to this mentality because it’s normalized in our culture. It rings loud in your favorite hip-hop songs, and it even shows up in the most important relationship you will ever have––the one with yourself. Ride or Die urges you to expel the myth that your self-worth is connected to how much labor you provide others and guides you toward healing.

Read an exclusive excerpt from it below and grab it here, in our bookshop.

When the song “Ryde or Die, Bitch” by the LOX was released in 1999, it became a guide for the type of woman I wanted to be. I was twenty-one years old, and this song was both an anthem in hip-hop and a personal road map. I wanted to be seen as a “ride-or-die” chick in the most romantic way. I wanted to be the “Bonnie” to a “Clyde,” a beautiful woman who was happily in an “us against the world” relationship. She was celebrated and highly valued in the music that I loved the most—hip- hop. She was renowned for the sacrifices she made for her partner at almost any cost to herself. She was valued for her love and loyalty through the labor of it all.

The ride-or-die chick is synonymous with some of our foremothers who love our families deeply, but never learned the delicate balance of loving others while pro- tecting their own emotional needs. They taught us how to keep our family close, how to preserve family traditions, and how to raise brilliant Black girls who will grow to be amazing Black women. She is the person fully willing to do all the heavy lifting for those she loves. She is also one who sacrificed pieces of herself for her family, like planning all the family events and arriving first and leaving last to ensure all the cleaning is done. She modeled how we should give every single ounce of ourselves as Black women, or else we couldn’t call it love. That we should give as much as we could—of our heart, time, energy. The ride-or-die chick has always been fully present in my life and in the Black community. She comes in different forms, too, and appears in all types of places. Of course, she’s omnipresent—that’s her role. She’s in our church passing out Bible verses to heal us. She’s up in our relationships. She’s the model of how we mother. We replicate her in our careers, pouring all that we’ve learned from her into boardrooms and spaces that don’t even know who she is or why she is.

The familiarity is what helps us connect so much to the ride-or-die archetype. It became widely popular in hip-hop because she represents the struggle, the love, and the indomitable survival. It was the lead single from the LOX’s second album, We Are the Streets. It features hip-hop legends like producer Timbaland and rapper Eve. Accord- ing to Billboard, it was the most commercially successful single of the famous album. Most importantly, it’s a song that provided a label for women, a label that has stuck for more than twenty years.

The song starts with:

I need a ryde or die bitch
I like to rock Prada suits and my ass is fat

The song doesn’t make you work too hard for clarity. It spares us the need for intellects to gather and unpack the genius of this song. Jadakiss, the member of the LOX who single-handedly defeated the group Dipset in one of hip-hop’s most talked about Verzuz battles of 2021, is a lyrical maverick, but this is not a song of substance. It’s not an important song. It’s not a good song. It’s just a song with a beat. In fact, it’s not even a song that deserves to be written about, except that it provides a visual representation of a “ride-or-die” chick.

Let’s be clear.

The ride-or-die chick has existed since the beginning of time. She’s like your mother’s mother and her mother, and so on. She predates rap. But what the LOX did was box her up all neat and nice and serve us her description. They provide her description in the opening. After they tell us what she looks like, they then provide the job requirements, should you choose to apply to be a ride-or-die chick—which I did, and was employed as one for a large portion of my life. Many Black women have been applicants.

Like most actual job descriptions, there are a list of duties for being a ride or die. The LOX and Timbaland break it down in an extreme circumstance, but still, it teaches us the basics: She has a willingness to literally kill for her man. She’ll do a lot more than just visit her man when he’s locked up—that type of support would only be basic. A ride-or-die chick does so MUCH more. Oh, and when she’s not visiting, she’s transporting coke out of town for him and killing his enemies and using her fake credit card twice in the store for him. Or as Jadakiss suggests, Make her use a fake credit card twice in a store / Might make you do it tomorrow, you triflin’ whore.

Sure, the lyrics themselves are hyperbole, but this was a summertime anthem, and it’s a classic concept ingrained in our culture. The fact that we never questioned how Eve could be in the chorus of a song that’s about women per- forming this kind of labor is fitting. It’s symbolic of the way some Black women can internalize and perpetuate the ride-or-die mentality. Some Black women sing this proverbial chorus daily. I’m guilty of this too. My family comprises mostly women.

The majority of the women in my family are financially self-sufficient, employed, and rarely struggle with housing insecurity. We know how to “make a dollar out of fifteen cents.” We can get creative with a budget, keep an emergency fund, and figure out a way to keep the lights on. When one of the men in my family fails to operate at the same level, we’ll sit around and pray. Lord, he just needs a good Black woman by his side. Conversely, if one of the women stumbles, the same prayer circle will gather, but instead it’s Lord, help her find a way.

I have a thirty-four-year-old cousin, Fred, who is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. He processes information in a way that’s just beautiful to witness. He’s analytical, quick-witted, and thinks deeply about the world around him. My family and I always imagined he would be an engineer, doctor, or whatever profession that demanded advanced intelligence. Fred went to Columbia University. His dad ensured Fred had a college fund and never lacked for anything while he attended college. He probably had no idea where the financial aid office was located on campus, or a clue about what his monthly rent or car payment cost. His dad handled it for him.

He decided to take a break from college one semester. After five years, we figured this was less of a break and more of a departure. He’s now a sales associate at the Gap. He loves it, and I’m sure he does well. Yet I still find myself wanting him to pursue a profession where his full potential can be realized. When I worry that he won’t, I reassure myself with “He’s handsome, sweet, and loving. One day he’ll meet a good Black woman that will help him get where he needs to be. She’ll put that work in and get him together.”

I’ve always viewed other Black women as the “cure” for whatever was “broken,” especially with the men in our family. My cousin James was the guy who could walk into a room and effortlessly command attention. He was funny, charismatic, and charming. Holiday events never felt the same until he arrived. When he walked in the door at Nanny’s house on Christmas, it felt like a Black episode of Cheers. “Ayyyyyyyyyyye,” we shouted in unison.

He leaned into his role as the center of the event. He cracked his flaw- less smile, hugged the aunties, and dapped up the uncles. Five minutes in, the entire room was as loud with laughter as a comedy club. He could always find a way to liven up the mood. He eventually became addicted to drugs. Addiction is a thief, and it doesn’t care what it steals. It stole his magnetic personality, his charm, and charisma. He became volatile. It was impossible to be around him because of the fear of sparking his rage. I would tell the aunties, “If he had a good sista that understood his potential, none of this would’ve ever happened to him. She would’ve worked with him.” The chorus would join me: “Girl, I know.”

The ride-or-die chick is woven into our family dynam- ics, in our music, and she’s the foundation of the spaces we hold dearest. The LOX might have popularized the ride-or-die title and young people in the hood may help keep the name relevant, but the blueprint of her creation was crafted by our grandparents in the Black church.

Grab your copy of Ride or Die: A Feminist Manifesto for the Well-Being of Black Women in our Book Club, and/or on Audible.